By design, the Office of the Vice President is consigned to be insignificant in a maze of government bureaucracy where power is concentrated on the President. Our constitution had reduced the Vice President to a little more than a nominal government functionary with no specific power and functions – unless by the mercy of the president, the VP is given a cabinet portfolio. With nothing much to do, Vice presidents have acquired the patience of Job as they wait endlessly for the chance of a lifetime to ascend to the presidency. In the colorful language of then U.S. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, ” the vice presidency is not worth a pitcher of warm spits.”
It was then Vice President Diosdado Macapagal who had put to good use the abundant spare time available to him. Largely ignored by President Garcia, Macapagal spent his term criss-crossing the country in preparation for his presidential quest. As a young boy in the then bucolic town of El Nido, I saw Macapagal disembark at the town’s rickety pier for a brief visit. Almost everyone was on hand to get a glimpse of the man who would be President. He then went on to Liminangcong, and later, to Cuyo aboard a ship of the Philippine Navy.
In recent times, VP Binay did just that, and for a long while, he seemed unstoppable in his presidential run – until the Senate inquiry on his skeletons at the Makati City Hall cut him down to size. On the other hand, VP Noli de Castro, popular as he was then, made it clear that he had no presidential ambition, a strategic move which spared him from ruthless political intrigues aspirants have to endure.
VP Leni survived the early Duterte snub with a surprise appointment to the Cabinet, but only to lose it in the worst presidential rebuke never before heard or seen in recent years. For a while, it would seemed VP Leni had became cozy with the President, even laughing coyly at his green jokes. Then the proverbial pie crumbled with her sharp comments on some issues close to the President.
Now out in the cold, VP Leni will have to play her cards with aplomb, in what could be the biggest test of her leadership and political acumen. In fact, there are a smorgasbord of options on her table. Not quite a few have suggested that she lead the moribund Liberal Party, or be the voice of the opposition. And there are those who tickle her with the presidency in 2022.
Poor Leni, the reluctant politician still appears dazed with her rapid rise in national politics and her sudden fall from Presidential grace. Hers was the best and the worst of times you can ever imagine. But now that she is freed from the rigors of running a department, VP Leni can either choose to do a Macapagal, or tread the path of least resistance by doing a Noli de Castro. The second option will certainly dismay her ardent supporters. For bestowed by fate of a rare opportunity to serve the nation, her choice must supersede personal inclination.
Tough times indeed for VP Leni. But as the American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson opined, “this time, like all times, is a very good one, if we only know what to do with it “.
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